Introducing action research into post-secondary foreign language teacher education

The teaching of foreign languages (FLs) at the post-secondary level in the USA increasingly reflects an interest in developing communicative proficiency, but at many universities, courses for the training of university-level foreign language instructors may not fully reflect this change. One major problem is that the curriculum for degrees in foreign languages reflects a heavy concern with literature and/or the structural characteristics of language, with little attention to pedagogy or provision for future faculty development. Key to this continuing structure is the fact that "probably less than 1% of the entire[foreign] language professoriate in the US is a specialist in applied linguistics related to language learning and teaching. In short, we have no large population of language educators at the Ph.D. level. University language departments are, by and large, departments of literature and culture." (Italics in original; VanPatten, 1998, p.931) One other major problem with more long-term implications is that FL teacher preparation programs, like teacher preparation programs generally, do not prepare the teacher to engage in a process of life-long learning, do not help teachers to use published research, and do not provide them with a problem-solving orientation to their own classroom teaching. Since, in addition, in the relationship between researchers and teachers, teachers are generally at the bottom of a top-down process, unable to provide adequate input into research operations (Berne, 1998), there is a real risk that the post-secondary level faculty who are trained today will remain static in their level of professionalism and use of pedagogy. This is a recipe for obsolescence.

Tagged as 1999-2002 language-teaching research